Webmaker Workshop with young students

Yesterday, Rick and I went to a middle school in the Toronto District School Board to do a Webmaker workshop for students in grade 6, 7 and 8.

We had three goals for this workshop:

  1. Get the students interested in considering a career as a software developer or a programmer.
  2. Educate them about the web.
  3. Teach them about Webmaker.org

There were many challenges in holding this workshop:

The students were very young.

Although grade 6–8 is the best age to educate students about something that could make them interested in their future, it might have been a boring workshop for some of them.

Photo from telegraph

Working at the school computer lab

Some of you might not know that working in a school computer lab is a nightmare when you have to access the internet. Why is that? Simply because some computers don't even have have Firefox or Chrome and you have to work with Internet Explorer 8. I'm sure you wouldn't have a good time working on Internet Explorer even with with version 9 or 10.

Working with many students at once

This is not really hard if you have patience. But, let me tell you that working with 30 students each workshop (we had 3 workshops) and trying to teac has never be an easy job for many of us... When I was that age, I didn't really have much of interest in learning about something new when I was on my computer. I just wanted to play Pokemon or something to kill some time.

Photo from BBC

How did we deal with that many students and did we succeed in our goals?

Holding three workshops with 30 students each was not easy for me since it was my first time doing this, but I did handle it very well. I also have to thank Rick for coming to the workshop to help me. It wouldn't have been as easy to do everything myself.

So how did we do it? Our first workshop was a bit of a mess because we didn't know we would be working in the computer lab. We also didn't know what the students were interested in or their knowledge of the web. However, we did learn from our first workshop. We had 15 minutes before the second workshop to prepare.

Let me list the things we didn't do well in our first workshop:

  1. We don't know how many students were coming. We expected there would be around 20 students, but there were definitely more. If I can recall the first workshop we had around 30+.

  2. The computers were very slow and really hard to work with. Thankfully Webmaker.org works really well on a slow computer as long as we have access to Firefox or Chrome (we only had access to Chrome which is fine too).

  3. We were short of time. We didn't know students would need us to answer their passport survey (a survey about the job). Since we wanted to cover three of our main goals, the timeframe we had (40 minutes) wasn't enough at all.

  4. We couldn't get most of the students' attention. It's hard to do that, but we had a plan – to give away some t-shirts. Unfortunately, it failed because we didn't have enough time.

Like I said, we did learn from our first workshop, so in that 15 mins we had before the second workshop, we did a quick plan on what we wanted them to do and what we wanted to tell them.

The second and third workshop we did went very well!

  1. We got 90% of students' attention. We made sure we covered things that they needed to get done first (their passport survey) and asked them to pay attention to our workshop because we had a prize. When we said that everyone just went super quiet and paid full attention to what we were showing them.

  2. They did learn something. I told them if they wanted to win the prize they would have to make sure they knew what was going on. At least 70% of them could answer our questions!

  3. They made something on Webmaker.org using Thimble. Well this is because we asked them to make something so they could win the prize...

4: We were on time! Hooray.

Just to conclude, we were really happy to see the smiles on the students' faces when they published a make on Webmaker.org and when they won a prize. I felt super happy and I'm sure what we did will influence this young new generation of kids to a have better future.